My New Year’s Blog: Aristotle and The “Big Con.”

I tried to write a typical New Year’s blog but it came out so unoriginal, so puerile that I didn’t have the heart to inflict it on readers. So, I’ve done something else.

Instead, I am inflicting on readers with the time and courage to continue a blog which is not an easy read.

It is sort of like a murder mystery but before you get to the part where you discover “the butler did it” you will have to slog through a lot of turgid prose and mind-numbing statistics.

It is an effort to show how we may be fast on the way to losing our Country, it’s values, it’s comforts and opportunities, by not understanding how the Con Men & Women are taking us (and eventually themselves) to the financial and political Cleaners!

We begin with the wisdom of Aristotle, the Greek Philosopher who, among other things, taught Alexander the Great, the youngster who conquered the known world by the age of twenty six.

Benjamin Franklin, emerging from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, was asked “what kind of a Government do we have?”

Franklin replied “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

Aristotle understood the difficulty of “keeping it” and forecast the progression of what I think we see around us in our Country today.

Aristotle said that “Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms.” We in the United States are at a dangerous point in an effort to strengthen the middle and avoid the last.

Yes, we still have a Republic. We citizens do not have a direct vote in the making of the laws or the oversight of governmental institutions. Instead, we elect people to  do the heavy lifting and our citizen oversight is to sue in the Courts if we think they’ve done it wrong or, the stronger check, to throw out the “bums” at election time and replace them with better, smarter “law makers.”

Still, with so many people today holding our elected law makers in such contempt and believing they are
“all corrupt,”  thus sliding the Country toward a rogue citizen “democracy” of disobedience to the law and disrespect for our very system of government, we are near enough to Aristotle’s middle ground as to consider how we can prevent sliding further into the last stage, despotism.

How to strengthen Democracy, then, is the challenge.

Aristotle believed that democracy is strengthened by nurturing a strong middle class. He argued that a prosperous middle class was no threat to the wealthy because it was content with its “good life” and at the same time felt compassion for the poor and agreed with policies that helped them. Thus with a strong middle class both ends of society’s spectrum survived, the wealthy and the poor.

But when the wealthy grows too greedy, when because of their power the wealthy arrange for policies that tip the imbalance more and more in their favor, they are hurting  the poor but more importantly for the cause of a  democracy they are hurting and thus reducing the strength of the middle class.

I read an internet posting by someone named Charles which framed the consequences of reducing the middle as argued by Aristotle very well.

Charles wrote:

“Aristotle pointed out that if the middle class disappears, then the poor will become the majority…If the poor are the majority, then in a democracy they will vote to take away the money from the rich!

So, what are the rich to do?

Well, do away with democracy of course! Democracy, at that point, becomes too much of a threat to the elite, and the elite start taking steps to limit the power of government (bolding added). The elite “call the shots” by exercising their wealth; the middle class though far more numerous in numbers are overwhelmed.

Therefore, as the middle class disappears, democracy disappears with it.”

So, what do we see around us today in America?

The richest 1% of families controlled a record-high 38.6% of the country’s wealth in 2016, according to a Federal Reserve report.

That’s nearly twice as much as the bottom 90%, which has seen its slice of the pie continue to shrink.

The bottom 90% of families now hold just 22.8% of the wealth, down from about one-third in 1989 when the Fed started tracking this measure.

Which brings us to the Republican party theory of “trickle down” – Give the wealthy even more money and they will use that money to create jobs and opportunities that will enrich everyone’s life.

Well, let’s look at the record.

William Lazonick studied the record and his findings were published three years ago in the Harvard Business Review.

Here are his key points of his study:

“While the top 0.1% of income recipients—which include most of the highest-ranking corporate executives—reap almost all the income gains, good jobs keep disappearing, and new employment opportunities tend to be insecure and underpaid. Corporate profitability is not translating into widespread economic prosperity.

The allocation of corporate profits to stock buybacks deserves much of the blame.  During the period studied  companies used 54% of their earnings—a total of $2.4 trillion—to buy back their own stock, almost all through purchases on the open market. Dividends absorbed an additional 37% of their earnings. That left very little for investments in productive capabilities or higher incomes for employees.

Why are such massive resources being devoted to stock repurchases? The simple truth is: Stock-based instruments make up the majority of their pay, and in the short term buybacks drive up stock prices. In 2012 the 500 highest-paid executives named in proxy statements of U.S. public companies received, on average, $30.3 million each; 42% of their compensation came from stock options and 41% from stock awards. By increasing the demand for a company’s shares, open-market buybacks automatically lift its stock price, even if only temporarily.

As a result, the very people we rely on to make investments in the productive capabilities that will increase our shared prosperity are instead devoting most of their companies’ profits to uses that will increase their own prosperity—with unsurprising results. Even when adjusted for inflation, the compensation of top U.S. executives has doubled or tripled since the first half of the 1990s, when it was already widely viewed as excessive. Meanwhile, overall U.S. economic performance has faltered.”

To be blunt. The poor and uneducated who vote for the Republican “trickle downsters”are buying one of the biggest economic “con” jobs of all times.

When today’s Republican leaders tell us that lowering the Corporate Income tax rate and reducing deductions that middle class taxpayers have relied on (and eliminating the mandate in the Affordable Care Act which will make it impossible for millions of poorer people to afford health insurance), they are the “Con Masters” and those who are taken in by them are the “rubes,” the losers.

In the new Tax bill, the middle class gets small tax cuts (which actually expire in a few years while the wealthy get a permanent huge tax cut that if history is any guide will not result in higher employment (above the normal expected) or higher wages and benefits for those employed.

Might as well just throw your life savings (and for many health) away on trying to guess which cup the pea is under at the Carnival booth.

I have cited here a couple of studies among many others I find persuasive. But, of course, you can find other studies (many funded by groups that support the wealthy’s interests) that disagree.  I invite you to go on line and read them.

But bear in mind, if these studies argue that this time “trickle down” will surely work as opposed to the last two times the Republicans tried it please remember Albert Einstein’s famous definition of Insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result!”

Finally, there are many things about the New Year of 2018, that I worry about.

First, the continued ignorant and dangerous leadership of Donald J Trump.

But right behind that is the problem of the Republican “con game” I’ve described here.

If the Republicans are successful in 2018, in “reforming” (their slippery word for “cutting”) such  Government programs  as Social Security, Medicare, Food Stamps, and the like (as Speaker Ryan described as the goal), then the middle class, not just the poor, will be further pinched and reduced and the slide toward despotism that Aristotle described will accelerate.

This time, this Greek from 2,400 years ago comes bearing a gift of foresight that we should not beware of but welcome and apply.

Fiction and Fact From Sam’s Almanac

Senator Al Franken delivered his farewell speech on the Senate floor today. He will resign on January 2nd, and his successor, Minnesota Lt. Governor Tina Smith will be sworn in as his successor on January 3rd,

Franken said this:

“As I leave the Senate, I have to admit that it feels like we’re losing the war for truth, Maybe it’s already lost. If that’s what happens, then we have lost the ability to have the kinds of arguments that help build consensus.”

I regret that Franken had to resign. I do so in no way wishing to excuse his conduct that forced the resignation. But in my previous “blogs” on this subject of sexual misconduct, I have argued that the level of punishment should fit the level of crime.

Harvey Weinstein, if the evidence convinces a jury of his peers he should be convicted of rape,  should go to prison. On the other hand, from what I know from the public prints of the transgression of Garrison Keillor, loss of job and livelihood and public denunciation in the extreme seems to me to be too harsh a penalty.

Franken fits somewhere in between. You decide for yourself where.

But Franken’s parting worry that we are “losing the war on truth” is a worry with which he need not be burdened.

We may be fighting a brutal battle at the moment, we may suffer a momentary reversal, but we are not losing the war on truth.

Truth is always a winner.

Facts always beat fiction.

Many years ago there was a popular NBC network morning radio show named “Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club.”

A member of the cast named Sam Cowling would deliver some comedic “pearls of wisdom” in a segment entitled “Fiction and Fact from Sam’s Almanac.”

A sample: Said Sam – “The distance from the head of a fox to its tail is a fur piece.” An indisputable fact.

Let this Sam try my hand at the difference between fiction and fact.

Everyone thought the Earth was the center of the Universe but as Copernicus learned the fact is the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of our planetary universe.

-Galileo reinforced that truth for which he was condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. More than 350 years later in 1992,  Pope Paul II apologized.

-The majority of Admirals in the world’s Naval forces said the airplane would never be a threat to the battleship. The fact is, as Isoroku Yamamato demonstrated one Sunday morning, the airplane rendered the battleship “yesterday’s news.”

Atlanta Constitution Editor Reg Murphy  wrote a column poking fun at the idea that Georgia’s outgoing Governor thought he might be elected President of the United States. The fact is, Jimmy Carter did become the 39th President of the United States.

Senator Inhofe scoffs at the concept of human activity adding dangerously to the planetary warming in this cycle but the fact is, if unchecked it will  destroy a happy and productive way of life for our prodigy if not kill them outright.

-Trump & Company say the new tax bill does not chiefly benefit the wealthy but the fact is the rich get richer and the poor get poorer under this monstrosity of a Robin Hood in reverse tax bill.

Facts will always prevail.

Do not fear, Al, the truth is not lost and will not be lost.

Donald Trump and his merry band of selfish enablers will know defeat along with the condemnation of their fellow Americans and a final placement (as that famous phrase has it) “On the ash heap of history.”

I guarantee it.

 

 

 

The Tax Bill – Murder Most Foul

You’ve read the analyses by bi-partisan specialists including the Congressional Budget office. You know that Republican “talking points” about how the Tax bill helps the middle class and billionaires like Donald J Trump lose money under it are a “bunch of hooey,” otherwise known as lies.

This bill is simply Robin Hood in reverse. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

In time, when a Democratic Congress and President take office, that can be reversed.

But what about the Americans who may die because of this bill? What can be done to bring back their very lives?

By repealing the Mandate provision of the Affordable Care Act millions of poor Americans may not be able to afford the premium increases that must come when young, healthy people won’t of their own accord join the insurance pool. That’s what the bill does with no “fix,” no replacement that will continue to make insurance affordable in sight.

Make no mistake.

This bill commits murder!

And while  Democrats once back in power will reverse that also, for many Americans it may be too late. They will be dead.

I am reminded of what the late Justice Thurgood Marshall once told me in an interview while he was still on the Court. He was unalterably opposed to the death penalty and explained his opposition this way.

“They say it’s okay, it’s not too bad. But what if you make a mistake and kill an innocent man. What do you say to him…

…Oops, sorry?

Death is so final.”

And if people who can no longer afford health insurance die because of it, what will Donald J Trump and his band of Republican enablers say to them?

Oops, sorry?

And if that happens, what do we say to the murderers?

 

A Coup Against America?

The Donald J Trump campaign to discredit Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation before it is complete has reached a fever pitch suggesting that despite his denials, Trump and his supporters are attempting to construct a rationale for firing Mueller soon, some Capitol Hill insiders believe this week.

Leading this effort is the notorious White House “lap dog” Fox Cable News. Here is the Washington Post’s partial list of the Fox contribution:

“Fox News commentators have called the investigation “illegitimate” and “corrupt.” Sean Hannity charged earlier this month that Mueller has put the country “on the brink of becoming a banana republic.”

“Secret surveillance, wiretapping, intimidation, harassment and threats. It’s like the old KGB that comes for you in the dark of the night banging through your door.”

Tom Fitton, president of the conservative organization Judicial Watch, made the same comparison on Fox News on Wednesday, saying, “Forget about shutting down Mr. Mueller. Do we need to shut down the FBI because it was turned into a KGB-type operation by the Obama administration?”

Apparently these strong words weren’t strong enough. Saturday night, Fox suggested that the Mueller probe might be “a coup in America.”

Fox News host Jesse Watters told viewers the investigation into Trump’s campaign “has been crooked from the jump.”

“But the scary part is we may now have proof the investigation was weaponized to destroy his presidency for partisan political purposes and to disenfranchise millions of American voters,” Watters said. “Now, if that’s true, we have a coup on our hands in America.”

As counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway spoke to Watters, a chyron appeared on the screen with the words “a coup in America?”

No, my friends, if there is a coup underway it is a Coup Against America. Against our nation’s Constitutional system of law and justice so that  if Mueller’s investigation should reach a finding of wrong doing it will never reach the public and if it should reach the public it will not be believed.

As the ABC News “Watergate Correspondent” I watched and reported on Richard Nixon’s effort to escape justice and there are some similarities and some differences between then and now.

As the American System assembled facts and closed in on Nixon, he and his supporters also twisted and turned, covered up and lied and lashed out at his tormentors (particularly the  press). But there are some big differences  between the Nixon/Trump cases,

First, though Nixon had won re-election by a large margin, the American public when presented with the facts as they were uncovered,  looked at the facts, thought about what was being learned and individually began to make up their own minds about who was lying and who was not, about whether Nixon was guilty of abuse of power or not. By the time the House Judiciary Committee had reported three Articles of Impeachment and the House was prepared to send Nixon’s fate to the Senate for trial, the senior leaders of the Republican party, gauging the public’s verdict already in, told Nixon he had no chance in the Senate and the best course was for him to resign.

Second, when Nixon fired Archibald Cox, the Special Prosecutor investigating him on October 20, 1973, people who had hitherto still been on the fence understood why Nixon had fired Cox, understood that you only fire the investigator when you fear the outcome of the investigation, when the investigator is getting too close to finding the facts of your guilt.

Innocent people welcome an Investigation by legal and competent authority; guilty people fear it.

So, if Trump does fire Mueller, will the public react in the same way today as it did when Saturday, October  20, 1973, was the tipping point that ensured Nixon’s doom?

I would like to think so but there is a third difference to consider.

Third, and this ties directly to the first point,  there was no Fox News or its equivalent as a Nixon propaganda megaphone to convince people that “up is down,” “black is white,” or the “dog ate the homework.”

Actually, the evidence does not show that Fox is persuading a majority of the Country that Trump is a great president, the subject of a “witch hunt (his words)” with the help of the FBI, an organization “in tatters (His words).”

Far from it.

But what Fox is doing is attempting to persuade its faithful Trump listeners that Trump is the victim. And with dangerous possible consequences for our Country by attacking and attempting to de-legitimize the very Institutions on which the foundation of our freedoms and liberties depend.

Nixon did not have this propaganda machine, run by people who do it in the pursuit of profit, not truth. Instead, Nixon was subject to a system that worked, in the words of the ancient phrase about the mills of the Gods “…grinding slowly but exceedingly fine.”  And the public accepted the findings.

Fox, by attacking the Investigators and law enforcement institutions is helping to harden Trump supporters against a possible finding of evidence and facts even before any conclusions are reached.

And consider the danger in doing that. If law, justice and the people charged with enforcing those safeguards are destroyed in the cause of protecting a potential guilty man from the consequences of his own guilty actions,  which one of us will be safe?

I am reminded of the great scene in the movie “A Man for All Seasons”  in which the late Paul Scofield playing Sir Thomas Moore instructs his future son-in-law of the danger of tearing down laws even if you do that to get at the devil.

Here’s the link:

This is a perilous time but I believe we will come through it with our Country and its Institutions intact. However, a great many people will have been hurt who may never be able to recover.

“Sad?”

No, criminal!

Alabama Is (still) Alabama

There was good news and bad news from Alabama Tuesday in the Special Senate election.

The good news was that Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore.

The bad news was that Alabama is still Alabama

Consider that the majority of Alabama voters are white and the  exit polling tells us that despite Roy Moore’s being homophobic, bigoted in so many ways, fond of the days of black slavery, finds the Constitutional amendments that gave citizenship to blacks and the right to vote to women distasteful and despite credible testimony about his early life as a sexual predator, despite all this, in this election:

-Moore won white women as well as white men.

-Moore won among educated as well as uneducated whites.

Moore won the white vote decisively

And, by the way, despite the accusations of sexual misconduct that rained down on Moore he won the votes of 80% of the Christian Evangelicals who voted.

What is clear is that if a regular, garden variety white conservative male had been the Republican candidate Democrat Jones would have been beaten badly…as has every other Democrat who ran for the Senate from Alabama since 1992.

Yes, Jones ran a very good, smart campaign but he won because Moore was so terrible in so many ways (hold the nose, beyond the pale ways) that it galvanized the opposition to him and minimized his advantages of being white and a Republican.

African Americans voted in sizeable numbers for Jones and enough white voters either crossed over, wrote in another name, or stayed home to make the difference.

That is, indeed, good news and those voters should be commended and thanked.

However, when the final returns lifted Jones to the winner’s circle, some commentators rhapsodized that the results demonstrated there is now a “new” Alabama.

Wrong.

The State is changing, thanks mainly to higher percentages of African American and other minority voters and, yes, a growing  number of young white men and women who are “throwing off” the civil war prejudices and bigotry of their ancestors.

But Tuesday’s election does not herald the arrival of a new age.

Not yet.

Alabama is (still) Alabama.

A Story of Crime and Punishment in Arizona

Here is a story so horrifying that it must bring tears to the eyes of any but the most hard hearted.

It is a story from Arizona but it could and is happening in much of the rest of America.

As reported in the Washington Post (and elsewhere), it is the story of how a policeman in Mesa, Arizona, named Philip “Mitch” Brailsford shot to death a man named Daniel Shaver two years ago and has now been found innocent of all charges connected with the shooting by a jury in Maricopa County, Arizona.

Here is what I hope you’ll do. Read the story, then watch the video of what happened from a police camera on the scene.

Here is the link:

http://wapo.st/2kcyD5N?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.b8b66bfd602f

The jury watched the video which shows Shaver trying desperately to obey police commands as he crawls as instructed toward the police who tell him if he doesn’t do exactly as ordered he will be shot

Shaver begs for his life as he crawls but it doesn’t help.

He is shot to death in a fusillade of bullets from Brailsford’s AR-15 assault weapon on which was etched the words “You’re F—ed.”

Show it to others. Then ask yourself and others these questions:

Why, really, did officer Brailsford shoot Daniel Shaver?

Why would that Arizona jury find that Brailsford acted properly?

These two questions shout themselves. They really demand an answer. The growing divide and mutual animosity between this Country’s police and  African American community must be bridged but never can be as long as questions like those go unanswered and unresolved.

Yes, it all makes you cry.

-for Shaver who met a fate he didn’t deserve.

-for Brailsford who acted as he did.

-for the Jury which exonerated Brailsford.

And for the rest of us who have not done enough to see to it that the need for such crying stop!

Trump vs Us, the Amish

As Robert Mueller’s Investigation closes in on Donald J Trump and his merry band of selfish thugs, the Trump machine is hard at work attempting to de-legitimize the Investigator and his Investigation.

Hard at work attempting to convince the public that Trump is not the Villain the evidence may well portray but the Victim of what he  calls a “witch hunt.”

With Trump denouncing the F B I as an organization in “tatters.”

With Fox’s Sean Hannity  branding Mueller, who as the longest serving FBI director after J Edgar Hoover drew bi-partisan praise for his integrity, “a disgrace to the American justice system.”

With top Republicans on Capitol Hill making efforts to de-legitimize and deflect the Investigation, the question is what can we, you and I, do to defeat these efforts?

I thought of the 1985 movie “Witness.”

We can be  Amish!

“Witness” starred Harrison Ford as a Philadelphia policemen who waged a one-man fight to save a young Amish boy from being killed by corrupt Police Department senior officials.

The boy, using the lavatory, had inadvertently witnessed a murder in the lavatory by corrupt police officers. Later, he pointed one of them out to Ford. When the corrupt officers realized Ford was on to them, Ford, the boy, and the boy’s mother fled to the Pennsylvania Amish community for refuge.

The corrupt officers found them and while two of them died in their attempt to kill the “Witness” the third put a gun to the head of the boy’s mother and Ford threw down his own gun in an effort to save their lives.

However, a patriarch of the Amish community had rung the bell which summoned  neighbors for help, and they had come running from their fields and homes. And when the corrupt officer marched Ford, the boy and his mother, out of the shed at gunpoint, he was met by a solid wall of these Amish witnesses.

Ford asked, “what are you going to do, shoot (us all)?”

The corrupt officer surveyed the great phalanx of Amish standing against him and realized it was over for him.

He put down his gun and gave up!

We must be “witnesses” for Mueller and his Investigators, in overwhelming numbers we must show the “corrupt cop” and his henchmen that it’s over, that they cannot win.

There is strength in standing for righteousness. We’ve all seen it in the Civil Rights movement in this Country. And I’ve seen it in a personal experience.

In 1994, a team from the ABC News magazine program “Prime Time Live” found a former Nazi SS Captain named Eric Priebke hiding in Argentina. In a sidewalk interview with me, he explained why he and other Gestapo officers in Rome had shot and killed 335 Italian civilians. Hitler had ordered it and he said he was “just following orders.”

When we put the story on the air, Italy demanded Priebke’s extradition. He was turned over to Italy where a three officer military court tried him for the murders.

Guess what? The Italian judges said they understood why military men had to follow orders and they found Priebke “not guilty.”

But he was never released.

That night, literally hundreds of thousands of Italians in Rome and other cities took to the streets in dramatic protest of the verdict. The Government kept Priebke under arrest and re-tried him in a civilian court which found him guilty and, since Italy has no death penalty for any crime, he was sentenced to life in prison.

We must make our protest to the Trump & Company tactics to escape justice known. We must do it in overwhelming numbers.

Write Congress your opposition to attempts to thwart and derail Mueller’s Investigation. post it on Facebook and other social media. Write and email your friends and associates, by all legal means let the thugs know now that they cannot win (unless the evidence carefully and objectively gathered turns out to be in their favor.)

“I hope you are all Republicans, ” quipped Ronald Reagan as the doctors prepared to remove a bullet from his chest.

“We are all Republicans, today,” replied Dr. Joseph Giordano (a Democrat).

Today, let us all be Amish!

 

 

 

 

 

Trump on Jerusalem – Dangerous Gobbledygook

Having arrived at the point of  a possible thermonuclear showdown with North Korea, Donald J Trump has now turned his attention to blowing up the middle East.

That may be too harsh.  The conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims, the rise of ISIL terrorism, the Syrian problem, the Kurdish question and any number of other tinder boxes already in one stage or another of explosion can continue to “blow up” the Middle East apart from anything Donald J Trump does.

But what Trump did  today was certainly a huge set back in eventually eliminating another of those tinder boxes, namely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

What he did sounds so reasonable, almost innocuous but far from it.

He said: “I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel…Today we finally acknowledge the obvious. This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality.”

Reality in that Israel does occupy Jerusalem and claims it as it’s Capital. But that is not a “reality” recognized by the Palestinians and Arab Nations throughout the Middle East. This difference of views is one of the major sticking points that has prevented a peace settlement since the State of Israel was born.

In 1978, at Camp David, President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar el Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin took a giant step toward agreeing on a set of Accords as a frame work for an overall peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But disagreements within those accords  continued. One was over a freeze on building new Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Another was the status of the city of Jerusalem.

Begin said Jerusalem was Israel’s Capital, Sadat said Arab interests within at least a portion of the city must be protected (as the Capital of a Palestinian State) and Carter said the United States was not going to side with either position believing that the final status of Jerusalem must be negotiated between the parties.

Ever since, U S policy has been to act as an “honest broker,” helping the parties try to reach agreements on the issues that separated them – including Jerusalem. Sure, over the years the U S has proposed various formulas for the parties to consider as they wished, pointing out where “trade offs” might work, but never taking one side against the other as U S policy.

Until today.

Today Trump did that. Backed Israel on one of the major sticking points.

Or has he?

He also said today: “We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, (Bolding added) or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are up to the parties involved,”

What?

He says, in effect, I declare that Jerusalem is  the Capital of Israel, lock stock and barrel unless, of course, the parties agree otherwise. Come on, Donald  J Trump, you can not mean both parts and although F Scott Fitzgerald famously postulated “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to  hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and  still retain the ability to functionI think both sides will fail to discern an intelligence and only call that “Gobbledygook.”

If all this “mumbo jumbo” is meant to make it look like he’s fulfilling a campaign pledge when he’s really not, does he really think he can fool the Israelis and their strong supporters here in the U S? They’re not stupid!

But there’s more.

Having convinced  many people that he really meant the first part – Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu certainly seems to believe it – Trump added this to today’s announcement:

“The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement. ”

Trump is saying he still believes he can be an “Honest Broker” whom both sides can trust despite the fact that he has sided with Israel on Jerusalem.

But who else will believe that? And if the United States has now become an advocate for one side’s  position rather than a mediator to help facilitate agreement forged by the two sides, who will take our place as a mediator in this  up-to-now intractable and deadly dispute?

Russia?

 

Albert Einstein Was Right – AGAIN!

In an earlier post, I quoted Albert Einstein’s saying that “the difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” And then went on to argue that was certainly true when it comes to Donald J Trump.

Einstein’s more famous saying is the subject of my blog today – “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Which brings us to the Republican tax bill(s) which have now passed both Houses of Congress and after a Conference Committee “marriage” will be afflicted on the Nation and all of us in it.

Here is an article worth reading by economist Robert A McElvaine  who has made one of this main interests a study of our (and thanks to us, the World’s) great depression of the 1930s.

He says the Republican party policy of enriching the wealthy in the belief (hope) that the wealthy, thus further enriched, will “trickle down” their riches to those of us less fortunate was one of the major factors that brought on that great depression. And, he says, the good old GOP has never let go of its policy and is clearly at it again in the tax bill.

http://wapo.st/2AfjOcy?tid=ss_mail&utm_term=.7b416eeb5af4

I remember many years ago having an amiable argument with Arthur Laffer, an economist who in 1979, drew a curve on a napkin at the old Occidental restaurant in Washington.

Laffer said the curve was to demonstrate that excessive taxation leads to killing the ability of business to create jobs (you kill the “goose” that lays the golden eggs of jobs) and if you lower taxes consumers have more to spend, businesses expand jobs to fill the need and in fact, with a lower tax rate since more people can now participate in the “good life,” you broaden the base of taxpayers and thus bring in enoung money to the treasury even with a lower rate.

Well that theory does make some sense but the thing is, at some point if you cut taxes, you have cut too much.

“Where,” I asked Laffer, “is that point?”

He didn’t know saying, in effect, we would know it when we saw it. Meaning when we had cut too much, we might then adjust the rates but of course if, like the legendary Titanic example, it might well be too late if we had cut too much.

Ronald Reagan’s team latched on to the Laffer theory and curve and Mr. Reagan used it during his successful 1980 presidential campaign. His Primary opponent Georg H W Bush called it “voodoo economics.” But Reagan was elected and pushed through a big tax cut.

Guess what?  After the first year, Reagan’s people having crunched the numbers looked into the “abyss” of the Laffer curve; they realized they had cut too much.

So they persuaded President Reagan we needed to raise fees for the use of National Parks and such, we needed to plug certain tax “loopholes” and (since you couldn’t get Mr. Reagan to sign on to actually raising the tax rates) you needed to put in place certain “revenue enhancers (ho, ho, a euphemism for “taxes”).

The president cheerfully signed on and one third of the big tax cut of 1981 was rescinded. But, it was not enough to keep three trillion dollars of deficit added to the National Debt by the time  Reagan left office (when Jimmy Carter left office the National Debt, accumulated since the birth of the nation, stood just under one trillion dollars).

And as Robert McElvaine says in his article, the GOP simply keeps doing the same thing again and again and again and expects the different result of “trickle down” tax cuts to help all the “little people” of the Country.

Or do they really expect it to eventually work? I think many of the Republicans who voted for the new tax bill(s) know better but simply want to take care of their donors selfish needs.

So, as we say here in the Southwest, “Pray for Rain” and while you’re at it, pray that whatever emerges as a new post-Trump GOP regains its sanity.

 

Michael Flynn Cops A Plea: Is Trump Trembling?

Oh, how sweet it is to replay Lt. General (USA Retired) Michael Flynn leading the chant of “lock her up” at the Republican Convention last year.  Put this on your browser address line, then enjoy.

“If I did a tenth of what she did, I would be in jail,” he shouted from the podium. Wait a bit, General, wait a bit  You may get your turn.

But Flynn is not the main target here.

Clearly from what we know from the public prints he was almost certainly facing a possible indictment on other, more serious charges. Except he “bargained” for lighter treatment in return for information about others he had and was willing to disclose under oath if called on to do so.

Before Special Counsel Robert Mueller agreed to “go easy” on Flynn (and his son?) in return for information offered he obviously evaluated it for it’s quality – how important in the overall investigation, how solid factually and against whom?

Surely not “three people in the mail room” Flynn can testify “J-walked” across Connecticut Avenue heading toward the Russian Embassy.

It would be naïve if one does not understand that the main targets in the effort to discover the truth about accusations of Trump campaign collusion with the Russians are campaign officials on Flynn’s level or higher.

Ultimately this investigation must attempt to answer the question: Was there Trump Campaign collusion with the Russians to defeat Hillary Clinton and if so, did Donald J Trump himself participate in or condone it.

So, is Trump Trembling tonight? I don’t know.

If he isn’t, it is because he really is innocent of any illegal or improper involvement with Russian election tampering.

Or, if he is involved but isn’t trembling, that can only be because he is so “cock sure” of his ability to ride out any “storm” or to beat any “rap” that he is  confident the law or an outraged pubic majority cannot touch him.

Not him!

If it should be the latter, he is dead wrong. Our system of legal and public judgement works. As a reporter who covered Washington for fifty two years, I saw it work time and time again.

When Nixon first de-rided a “third rate burglary,” when Reagan first said there was “no foundation” to the story of selling Arms to Iran for the exchange of hostages, when Clinton first said he had never had sex with “that woman, Miss Lewinsky” the system forced the truth from them.

And there were many more instances in which I saw the System thwart the “high and  mighty’s”  attempt to escape truth and justice.

So, if Donald J Trump has done nothing illegal, he need not tremble because of information Flynn or anyone else gives Robert Mueller.

On the other hand, if he is involved in acts illegal or improper, no matter what he thinks he can get away with, I have news for him:

You can’t. Our system still works and you are already finished, just too vain or too stupid to know it.